Experiments in real-time map-based underground global positioning


Stefan Radacina Rusu, Joshua Marshall, John Hayes,

For surface operations, the satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) has significantly changed the way daily operations are carried out. GPS has transformed key aspects of surface mining like safety, productivity, fleet efficiency, and maintenance. However, no comparable global localization system exists for underground mines. Recent practice has been to install wireless devices throughout the mine, often in the form of RFID tags or Wi-Fi access points. Although useful for some purposes, to obtain any sort of accuracy comparable to that of satellite-based GPS, one needs not only an impractical number of devices but also to know their positions with high accuracy. In this paper we will discuss our work in the application of ideas from the mobile robotics research community to the problem of real-time vehicle positioning in underground drift networks. Our previous work has focused on the creation of globally consistent 2D representations of underground environments that are of sufficient detail to be used for underground localization. More recently, we have leveraged the success of this research in the development of a GPS-like system for mobile mining equipment. We will present the results both of a laboratory deployment in the Carleton University tunnel network and of our underground field experiments in map-based positioning.
Keywords: underground positioning, equipment tracking, mining robotics, fleet management, underground mapping